Sunday, 21 April 2013

Not quite living up to your hero

It's probably not entirely normal to say this, but Samuel Pepys is my hero.

I have a deep and abiding fascination with Restoration London, perhaps in no small part to his descriptions... but then, perhaps I have the interest in Pepys because he happened to be there are a fascinating time in history. I have yet to work this part out. Either way, when I moved to London I was delighted to find out my workplace was within easy wandering distance of a lot of the places he lived and worked, and I have spent quite a few happy lunch hours wandering around, looking at St Brides and Seething Lane and St Pauls. It has, if anything, possibly heightened my interest in Pepys.

I would like to be like Pepys, except perhaps without the copious extra-marital affairs or that time he was locked in the Tower. I identify with him, too – he came from a humble background, got a leg up due to cleverness honed with education, and was a skilled and talented administrator. I'd like to be like that, ideally with some of the massive success that is due at about this age, actually.

One of reasons Pepys and I differ, however, is that Pepys was an amazing diarist. We all know this. The plaque on the site of his birth saddens me, as I don't think that's now he would want to be remembered, but his skills of observation are unsurpassed. I'm managing to blog about twice a month, although my excuse is that Pepys didn't have interesting stuff to watch on the telly to distract him.

Anyway, Pepys would often go and have a nosey at interesting sights on London streets. Imagine my opportunity when they announced the route for Thatcher's funeral going more or less past my work? I could blog about that!

In the end, though,I didn't watch the funeral. There are two reasons for that: firstly, I had no desire to actually get involved in the thing, as I dislike the woman thoroughly and didn't want to be seen praising her, but I also had no desire to get involved in the protesting as I do think it was a little distasteful. Also, it was my turn to look after the switchboard.

Instead, on my walk to work from the Tube, I took a detour along some of the route. I lost count of police at 52, and to my secret gratification I saw Jon Snow, although not in a jolly tie for obvious reasons. More confusing was the large amount of quite jolly people out, taking the day as another cheery day in London, posing for foreign reporters. It all contrasted a little with the scary signs of the state -all of the Boris bikes were gone, no traffic on normally busy roads, police everywhere, and vehicle blocking equipment down every side street. It was quite good to get into work, in the end.

Where I sit in work I have no view of the main streets, but I could hear the noise in the backgrounds. Military bands played, and more ominously the helicopters roared over constantly for a good few hours. BBC News 24 was on the office TV and it was weird to see the streets we worked on full of all the fanfare. (A waste of public money, might I add.)

On my lunch, after the funeral was over, I had a wander up to St Pauls. The streets were still very busy, and I was mystified by the amount of people with sandwiches and little folding chairs. This was the funeral of someone who was – at the end of the day and indeed her life – a public citizen. It shouldn't have been a national event, and I'm a little bemused that it was. Still, at St Pauls I was pleased to see someone giving a lecture that sounded a lot like one of the lectures from The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist. More alarming was all of the police going off duty in the direction of Old Bailey – I have literally never seen so many in one place.

It was, basically, a weird day. In the end I went out for a drink after work – and why not? It was remarkably quiet, given the amount of office workers who had the day off. That's a fair indictment of Thatcher right there – given I work in one of the few areas she wasn't having a good go at crushing, it's ironic a lot of us got some time off, therefore reducing productivity.

This write up has mostly convinced me that I am no Pepys – so now to bedd, for my head is aking.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Milk snatcher

Margaret Thatcher died today.

Let's get a few things out of the way: I feel sorry for her family's loss, and also a lingering set of twilight years with dementia followed by a stroke is an unpleasant way to go. And yes, she was the first female Prime Minister.

Right. Now we have said that, let's say some other things.

I will not mourn the end of a woman who is responsible for some fucking awful things in our country, and is still responsible now. I don't have a full set of all the awful things she did, but during her time as Prime Minister the working classes of this country were ground down into worklessness, entire communities made into poverty-ridden ghost towns. Those cities haven't recovered yey. Those cities in the north, in Scotland, in Wales, may never recover because the poisonous politics that started with her still tell them that they're wastrels, that they're not worth anything. The problems we have now still continue, and her political descendents are destroying what is left in some of those communities.

I will not mourn Section 28, a legacy I was still dealing with when I was in comprehensive education, a time when queer kids and adults were given no support by public funds. By 'no support' this meant no protection of homophobic bullying, amongst a raft of other things. This still continues.

I will not mourn someone who supported apartheid in South Africa.

I will not mourn someone who sank the Belgrano when it was retreating.

I will not mourn privatisation of vital services. I will not mourn the idea that it's somehow okay for people to make profit off the back of heating, light and clean water.

I will not mourn someone who kickstarted the excesses of our financial markets.

I am the daughter of working class parents. I grew up on the edge of one of those decimated communities. So you'll forgive me, right now, if I am having a drink. I'm not doing it to celebrate her death, but I am doing it to remember all of the tragedy and horror she caused, and her legacy is still causing.

Over dramatic? Yeah, probably. Depending on when the funeral is, though, it may well block my ability to get into work as the cortege will be going very near my offices. I have a long weekend coming up, but unless the funeral is on Friday or Monday it will directly affect my ability to get into work. Whether I want to or not, it's being put directly in my way.

Those are my thoughts. I appreciate you may have different ones. I don't pretend to understand them, if I'm honest.